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*A Book Review*

How I Raised Myself From Failure To
Success In Selling

By Frank Bettger

by Michael C. Gray

May 30, 2000

How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling is a self-help classic that everyone should read. This is one of a few books that I go back to for a "refresher" each year because it covers not only principles of selling but also principles for successful living.

Every one of us is involved with selling, whether we are selling our product or service, selling ourselves in a job interview, selling ourselves to a prospective mate, or selling our children on making good decisions in life.

The "lessons" revolve around the life experiences of Frank Bettger, who was a living American success story. Frank Bettger's father died without any life insurance when he was a small boy. His mother had to take in washing and sewing to feed and clothe her five children. Three of the children died from illness. Frank had no formal education after the sixth grade. He played professional baseball, and had to quit because of an injury.

He was working collecting accounts on a bicycle for a furniture store when one of his former team mates suggested he try selling life insurance. He was initially a failure as an insurance salesperson, and was ready to quit. Then he learned some lessons that enabled him to turn his career around and eventually become one of the most successful life insurance salespersons of his time. According to Dale Carnegie, author of How To Make Friends And Influence People, Frank became so successful, he could have retired at age 40. Dale Carnegie was a friend of Frank's and invited him to share his experiences in a nationwide lecture tour for the Junior Chambers of Commerce (now Jaycees), and finally begged him to write them down in a book, one of the most practical books ever written on the subject of selling.

One of the lessons Frank shares is how the power of enthusiasam increased his income by 700% in ten days.

When Frank was ready to quit the selling business, one sentence put him back in the business and turned around his career. That sentence was from Walter LeMar Talbot, President of the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company. "Gentlemen, after all, this business of selling narrows down to one thing - just one thing . . . seeing the people! Show me any man of ordinary ability who will go out and earnestly tell his story to four or five people every day, and I will show you a man who just can't help making good!"

Frank discovered that seeing four or five people a day was actually a big job. In order to keep on track, he found it was critically important for him to keep good records. By tracking the results of his calls, he was able to improve his closing ratio from one sale out of 29 calls to one out of three, and the value of his calls from $2.30 to $19 each.

On one of his sales calls, Frank hit a "home run." He made one of the largest sales in the history of his company to that point. In analyzing the sale, he wasn't able to determine what had happened. Then an "old timer," Clayt Hunsicker, pointed out to Frank the reason for this successful sale, and changed Frank's mission in selling. Clayt said, "The most important secret of salesmanship is to find out what the other fellow wants, then help him find the best way to get it. . . If you will always remember this one rule, selling will be easy."

Frank concludes the book by revealing a key secret of his success. As a resident of Philadelphia, he was fascinated with one of Philadelphia's most famous historical persons, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin only had two years of formal education and became one of the leading scholars and statesmen of his time.

When reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Frank noticed that Benjamin Franklin wrote about a system he used for his personal development. Franklin dedicated more space relating to this idea - fifteen pages - than anything else in the book, said he owed all of his success and happiness to the system, and concluded "I hope, therefore, that some of my descendents may follow the example and reap the benefit." Franklin described a system where he chose thirteen subjects and focused on improving on each one for a week at a time. At the end of thirteen weeks, he would repeat the procedure, completing four "sets" in a year. Frank Bettger found in Franklin's system a method of self-discipline and developed himself to be one of the greatest salespersons of his time.

Notably, in developing his "character based" system of personal development, Steven Covey also referred to Franklin's system in developing The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. Franklin and Bettger gave the examples for one of the most popular personal development systems today.

Although many things may change, basic human needs and desires stay the same. Most people want to be healthy and happy, to have friends, and to provide for their families. The basic principles of appealing to human beings for their benefit remain the same. How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling will remain a valuable guidepost for the ages, that every person should read.

Buy it on Amazon: How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling.

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